It's the lie that gets you
The SRA has prohibited a former Irwin Mitchell paralegal from working in a legal practice, after he missed a court fee payment, and tried to cover up his mistake.
The paralegal was dealing with a personal injury matter where he had to pay a court trial fee by 1 October 2019, or else the case would be struck out. He mistakenly neglected to do so.
On 8 October, the paralegal spoke to the defendant's solicitor, who mentioned the upcoming trial scheduled for later that month. The paralegal told the solicitor that he had not received the Notice of Trial. But he must have had a brown trouser moment when he checked the file, as he found the notice was there.
Rather than holding his hands up, the Irwin Mitchell paralegal destroyed the Notice of Trial and emailed the defendant's solicitor still maintaining that he had not received the document.
The next day the paralegal tried to dupe the court by filing an application, along with a signed statement, stating that he had not received the Notice of Trial. However, on 14 October the paralegal told the firm he had been deceitful, and he resigned.
The matter was brought before the SRA. The paralegal admitted to the regulator that he had misled the defendant's solicitor and given the court a false statement.
The SRA held that the paralegal's conduct made it "undesirable for him to be involved in a legal practice because it was dishonest", but noted that it was "an isolated incident" and the paralegal had "expressed regret and remorse" and cooperated with the investigation.
The regulator prohibited the paralegal from being employed by a solicitor or firm without the SRA's prior permission, and ordered that he pay costs of £300.
The SRA's decision (a Section 43 Order) is not a total ban, as a firm could apply to the regulator for permission to employ the paralegal. The SRA could then approve such an application if various conditions are met, such as the firm closely supervising and monitoring the employee.
“This was an isolated incident," an Irwin Mitchell spokesman told RollOnFriday. "The SRA took no action against the firm and all matters were satisfactorily resolved with the affected client.”